Link Round-Up: Index Funds; Women-Oriented Companies Run By Men Because #Patriarchy

joanie+ Someone in a comment asked for an overview of Index Funds. Here’s a very good, straightforward, and simple one: Why Does Everyone Preach About Index Funds? What They Are And Why They’re Good – From The Very Beginning.

The natural state for a business is to increase in value, and thus for its stock to go up. Now, let’s say you have the money to invest in the stock of one company. A lot of people invest this way by choosing individual stocks to invest in. That one company might be a really good one and skyrocket. It might also just be an average company and just do average. It might also be another Enron and just completely fall apart. Obviously, you want that high-riser, but what you really want is to avoid that Enron. If the stock you happened to buy is another Enron, your money is gone. This is a very big risk with individual stock investing – if you buy a lemon, your money goes poof. …

An index fund is exactly what I described above: they define some rule or set of rules, then just buy the stocks that follow that rule. Because it’s so easy to do this, the companies that run index funds generally don’t charge very much in fees for doing this for you. It’s popular because it’s very easy and it works.

For further / deeper reading, there’s some interesting info here in Q&A form (“Will the popularity of index funds cause a pricing bubble in the stocks that make up an index?”) on Stack Exchange. 

+ Men might not buy tampons, but they sure will sell them.

According to research and data compiled by the Huffington Post:

There is a stunning absence of women at the top of companies that make and market products to women. The gender disparity in these industries has gotten little attention recently, as discussion has centered around the lack of women at the top of finance and tech companies. The scarcity of women executives at those firms is often explained by pointing to women’s “lack of interest,” or shortfalls in science and technology. That reasoning fades at companies that make products for women and employ a large pipeline of women selling on retail sales floors, sitting in cubicles and working as middle managers. 

The Huffington Post and Catalyst, an organization aimed at boosting women in business, looked at 19 of the largest companies that cater in large part to women, a category we’ve defined to include makeup purveyors, department stores, large-scale consumer goods manufacturers and women-focused clothing companies. Just one company, Avon, has a board of directors that’s majority women.

The situation is similarly dismal when it comes to the companies’ executive teams or the so-called C-Suite of leaders who make the major business and product decisions at large companies. Out of all the companies, just J.C. Penney has a senior leadership team that’s majority women.

Is this a “Lean In” problem, where women who work at places like Proctor & Gamble take themselves out of the running to reach the C-Suite because they’re scared of the long hours and crushing responsibility? Or is there sexism afoot? The answer seems to be a little of Column A, a little of Column B. Either way, the situation is grim when the average woman-oriented company still looks like Sterling Cooper Draper Price. And the Huffington Post piece is worth reading in full.

Efforts to move more women into executive roles are often half-hearted. Many companies make efforts to promote women to the top ranks. But once a woman or two reach the masthead, companies may “relax and direct their attention elsewhere,” said Ross, the Columbia professor.

And, in many cases, the women leaders fulfill what 20-first, a gender consultancy group, describes as “staff or support” positions, like HR, communications and legal. At the country’s top 100 companies just 70 women — or 6 percent of executives — have in-line or operational executive positions, according to 20-first’s gender scorecard. That means the women at the top aren’t making decisions about the products themselves or the advertising strategies behind them.

… Recently, a group at this executive’s company put together a multi-million dollar national ad campaign, and all the people calling the shots were men. “The campaign was supposed to be something aspirational for women, but wound up looking like the cover of the Sports illustrated swimsuit issue,” she said. Completely sexualized. “It’s mind-boggling.”

Any ladies out there ever worked at a woman-oriented company and expected it to be more female-friendly than it turned out to be? Any men horrified to be asked how to sell menstrual products? Send us your horror stories! Ester@thebillfold.com and/or comment below.

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